MP stands by plan for new leadership
Ivan Lewis confirms Manchester’s leaders need a new body to halt the community’s decline
IVAN LEWIS MP has rejected criticism of the plan to give Manchester’s Jewish community a new council of leaders and has said that the community needs to act to stem the flow of young Jews leaving the city.
Justifying the new organisation, Community First, which is based on the national Jewish Leadership Council, Mr Lewis told the JC: “If we don’t act now to stop the exodus of talented young people from Manchester to London, the community will reach crisis point.”
Mr Lewis, a former Manchester Federation head who is now Bury South Labour MP and Under-Secretary of State for Care Services, added: “We have the early signs of a declining community in Manchester and if we don’t plan for the future, the consequences will be significant.”
Pointing out that the Representative Council had never been a leadership body, Mr Lewis praised Manchester Representative Council president Louis Rapaport for “putting all issues of ego and status to one side and acting in the best interests of the community”.
Mr Rapaport commented: “The Representative Council allows the community to discuss matters of mutual interest. But we are amateurs and not a body that can bring about change. We are not proactive but reactive to what goes on in the community.” He added: “The community cannot stand by and ignore the input of the movers and shakers.”
Mr Lewis added that Community First, which he is setting up with Manchester Council chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, would comprise respected people with a track record of leadership who were also active members of the community and able to respond to challenges. He said that rather than represent organisations, Community First would be a leadership executive based on merit that looked at the “overall needs” of the community.
Although Mr Lewis said that the names of those appointed to the new unelected body — set up by Manchester’s Jewish Project to Reorganise Communal Organisations — would not be revealed for another month, he noted: “When the community sees the calibre and status of the people involved they will feel confident that these people are fit to lead the community in tackling real challenges.”
He praised Sir Howard Bernstein, who he said had transformed Manchester into one of Europe’s greatest cities, for being willing to give his time, energy and expertise to his community.
But former Board of Deputies vicepresident Professor Eric Moonman, who voiced criticism in last week’s JC of the new body, warned: “The London Leadership Council has not proved itself and if Manchester wants to take the same road it should wait and see if the London experience succeeds.” He argued that money and not just “fine people” brought about change.
Professor Moonman pointed out that philanthropists such as Joshua Rowe in Manchester and the Ziff family in Leeds brought about change within communities. He was concerned that few new philanthropists had come forward to serve provincial communities in the past 10 years.